Bethany Hamilton (Creator/AnnaSophiaRobb) is a teenager who lives in Kauai, Hawaii who loves surfing. One day, she and her best friend Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson) go surfing with Alana's father and brother. As Bethany dangles her left arm in the water, a tiger shark appears out of nowhere and bites off her arm near the shoulder.

Alana's father puts a tourniquet on Bethany while Alana's brother calls 9-1-1. An ambulance meets them on the way to the hospital.

The family, however, bears no ill will towards Alana's family for taking her out to the place where she was attacked. After a recuperation period, Bethany gets back in the water and learns to surf with one arm, eventually re-entering competition. She tells her rival Malina not to take it easy on her, and rejects a five-minute head start offered by the judges. She doesn't perform well because she can't stay on the board long enough to go out and catch a competitive wave, and loses. Disheartened, she decides to give up competitive surfing.

She sees the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on television, which places her own problems in perspective. She decides to join her youth group on a missionary trip to help the devastated people of [[ParentalBonus Phucket]], Thailand. The people are understandably afraid of the water, including a little boy. Bethany decides to go into the water with a surf board, hoping this will coax the boy into the water. It works, and the realization she can use her gift to inspire people motivates her to take up surfing again.

Tom rigs a handle on her surfboard which she can use to prevent falling off while paddling out to the waves. She enters the regional championship, thanks her rival for treating her as a serious competitor, and performs respectably, though she is still chasing third place.

With only minutes left on the clock, the waves die down and all the surfers can only loiter, waiting for them to start back up. Bethany is the only one to sense a big wave forming, and she alone paddles out. When it forms, the others can't get out in time and she catches it just as the horn sounds. She will win if it was in time, but the judges rule that the time has expired. Malina is the winner, but she has finally gotten over her differences with her, inviting her up on the platform to share first place.

Subsequently, Bethany lets the reporters interview her. One asks her what she would do if given the chance to undo the loss of her arm. She says that she would still lose it because she can embrace more people now than she ever could with two arms.

* AdaptationalAngstUpgrade: The real Bethany Hamilton claims that she was much more cheerful in the hospital. She played pranks on the nurses and gave stuffed animals to a [[LittlestCancerPatient cancer patient]].
* AdaptationalAttractiveness: Practically everyone, with the exception of Alana, a real-life model, who is ''[[http://www.empiresports.co/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/empire-sports-Alana-Blanchard-Surfing.jpg even more attractive]]'' than her film counterpart.
* AdultFear: Having your child attacked by a dangerous animal is a big one.
* AnArmAndALeg: Bethany loses her arm to a shark.
* ArtificialLimb: Bethany gets offered one, but she soon turns it down.
* BarelyThereSwimwear: The bikini that Alana buys.
-->'''Bethany''': Are you kidding? That looks like an eyepatch.
* BasedOnATrueStory
* BloodIsSquickerInWater: Good god.
* ChristianityIsCatholic: Averted. Here Christianity is Evangelical.
* DaddysGirl: Bethany
* {{Fanservice}}: Bethany and Alana [[WalkingSwimsuitScene spend most of the movie in bikinis]]. ([[JustifiedTrope It is Hawaii, after all]]). Most notably, Alana's photoshoot.
** In point of fact Bethany rather disliked the photoshoot, saying in her memoirs that it made Alana look more exhibitionistic then she really was.
** Bethany and the other surfers usually wear a jersey over their swimsuits during the actual surfing scenes.
* FriendsRentControl: The family lives in a very nice house, with zero mention of what either parent's job is. And if the mother is homeschooling the children, it's possible she doesn't work at all.
* GoodParents: The Hamiltons and the Blanchards.
* GoryDiscretionShot: We don't actually see the wound from the shark attack. Lots of blood in the water, though.
* HeelFaceTurn: Malina
* HeterosexualLifePartners: Bethany and Alana. TruthInTelevision; they're still best friends to this day.
* HomeschooledKids: Because the best surfing hours are during school.
* IJustWantToBeNormal: Normal is so overrated.
* MoodWhiplash: Bethany and Alana are casually discussing what swimsuits to wear for their photoshoot. Then the shark attacks.
* MsFanservice: Every female character provides a bit of fanservice, but Alana still manages to stand out. TruthInTelevision, [[http://cdn.bleacherreport.net/images_root/slides/photos/000/963/843/Alana-Blanchard-a_display_image.jpg?1306341263 just look at her!]]
* OhCrap: Describes the look on Bethany's dad's face perfectly when he a nurse tells his surgeon that they're bringing in a teenage girl who got attacked by a shark--and he knows his daughter was out surfing.
* [[OminousLatinChanting Ominous Hawaiian Chanting]]: Used to great effect on the way to the hospital.
* ParkingProblems: Bethany's mom is so upset after hearing about her daughter's arm, she forgets to put her minivan in Park after arriving at the hospital.
** Alana's dad takes up two parking spaces with his truck.
* PassionateSportsGirl: Bethany Hamilton starts off with a future on the real waves she surfs. When she comes back from a loss, beating the odds and never saying never, she becomes a champion.
* PlentyOfBlondes: The movie includes pretty much every woman with a speaking part (and maybe then some) except the native Hawaiian Malina Birch, Bethany's fierce rival.
* PluckyGirl: Bethany
* RealityIsUnrealistic: Some people complained that the large bite taken out of the board was cartoonish and unrealistic. [[http://espn.go.com/espn/page2/index?id=6395339 They]] were [[http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/picturegalleries/5900882/Bethany-Hamilton-the-surfer-who-lost-one-arm-in-a-shark-attack-is-competing-again.html?image=2 wrong]].
* [[RealMenLoveJesus Real Women Love Jesus]]
* {{Revenge}}: Sort of. That very shark ends up being showed off as a trophy by some fishermen. However it is just a fish so it is not clear [[AnimalNemesis how much revenge one can get]]. More likely the emphasis was on getting a dangerous animal out of the water so it couldn't harm any more humans.
* SceneryPorn: ''Hawaii''.
* StuntDouble / TalentDouble: While an actor plays Bethany in the dialogue, Bethany ''was her own stunt double'', conveniently being perfectly qualified, as well as saving the effects crew from having to erase a stunt double's arm like they did with [=AnnaSophia=] Robb. In other words, when you see the surfing scenes, you are ''actually watching Bethany Hamilton.'' And it doesn't look like it should be called "surfing". It should be called [[SugarWiki/AwesomeMoments dancing on the water]].
* ThreateningShark
* TrainingMontage
* TrueCompanions: Several overlapping groups; the Hamiltons and Blanchards, Bethany and her Church Youth Group, Bethany and her surfing buddies too.
* VomitIndiscretionShot: Alana throws up on the beach after the shark attack.
* WalkingSwimsuitScene: Scenes where Bethany and Alana aren't wearing swimsuits of some kind can be counted on one hand.
* "WhereAreTheyNow?" Epilogue